Anti-Semitism is a protean and flexible instrument, as well as an incredibly virulent and long-lived one.
It may seem puzzling that, instead of increasing sympathy for the Israelis among previous Palestinian supporters in the West, the October 7 massacre seems to have done the opposite: increased the hatred, and not just hatred for Israelis but also for Jews. There are individual exceptions, of course, but in general the virulence and number of expressions of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment – especially on the Left – have grown stronger.
What’s more, the Hamas and Iranian planners of the massacre probably knew it would have that effect, and that’s one reason why the atrocities were filmed and disseminated. There are many elements involved in this, and I probably won’t touch on all of them, but here are the ones that come to mind.
(1) I wrote an article for PJ Media back in 2007 that discussed some of this in depth and related it to, of all things, Romanticism. You can find the article here; I suggest you read it, but I’ll excerpt just a bit here:
[Romantics] believed in the necessity of fighting for your beliefs to the last breath in your body …they believed in the value of martyrdom as such, no matter what the martyrdom was for…. — Isaiah Berlin, The Roots of Romanticism …
[Romanticism] informs our lives in many ways, including – surprisingly enough – our political lives: [The Romantics] sought regeneration — a regeneration we can liken to that of the medieval heretic or saint. They favored selfless enthusiasm, an enthusiasm which was an expression of faith and not as the product of utilitarian calculation. Emotion — unbridled emotion — was celebrated irrespective of its consequences.
If Romanticism glories powerful emotion “irrespective of its consequences,” it becomes easy to see why rage and nihilism are no strangers to the movement. …
The lengthier [Isaiah Berlin] excerpt includes Berlin’s assertion that the Romantics glorified those perceived as downtrodden: the failures and the minorities. Romantics didn’t just express empathy or sympathy for them, but actually elevated them to a place more worthy and more noble than the successes and the majorities. …
Romanticism (and Leftism) dictates not just sympathy for the Third World, but near-veneration of those there who combine a sense of victimhood (real or imagined) with what the poet Yeats called “passionate intensity,” which is the essence of Romanticism.
Anger is part of that passionate intensity, and it’s often a dominant part.
The more the Palestinians and Hamas rage and commit barbaric mayhem, the more terrible the Israeli offenses must be that sparked the rage – at least, that’s how the minds of the Left’s Romantics operate. And “Romantic” is not a compliment.
(2) Related to #1 is that cognitive dissonance is mentally painful and people ordinarily seek to resolve it not by changing their minds about something but figuring out a way to adjust to the new information and keep their old belief system. This article discusses the phenomenon:
“Western activists for Palestinians”, he added, “are dedicated to two nearly theological precepts: that Israel is evil, and that no Palestinian action is ever connected to any Palestinian outcome”. Hamas’s gruesome attack, he concluded, “poses a threat to this worldview, and the only way to resolve it is by heightening Israel’s imagined malevolence. The terrorist atrocities don’t trigger a recoiling from the cause in whose name they were carried out; they lead to an even greater revulsion at the victim.”
It’s as though there’s a balance scale in which the greater the Palestinian offense, the greater Israel’s crimes must have been in causing such a reaction. That way the person’s belief system is kept intact. The MSM leads the way on this.
(3) There is also the sad fact that a great many human beings get off on watching violence, including violent sex. The porn channels are filled with it, and the many people who watch violent sex around the world are both desensitized to milder versions of it because they’re used to watching it, and titillated by stronger versions of it.
(4) When all else fails, there’s always denial. Many Palestinians and their supporters send out the message that the atrocity films aren’t real and that they are Israeli lies. It’s ironic, because such lies are the Palestinians’ stock in trade, but it’s a very effective approach because the denial also solves people’s cognitive dissonance because they can tell themselves it didn’t happen (or the worst of it didn’t happen).
(5) For the anti-Semitic True Believers, the films act as a releaser for expressions of hate, and they also see that they have many fellow-travelers when they watch similar demonstrations all over the world.
(6) In Europe, believing that the Israelis and Jews are Nazi-like, rather than that it is Hamas and many Palestinians who are Nazi-like, gets Europe off the hook for the Holocaust. There is truth to this saying (the linked article is from 2010):
As an Israeli psychoanalyst once noted with bitter irony, the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz. The corollary to this observation is that Europeans will never forgive the Israelis and the Jews for Auschwitz. …
Of course, nothing Israel has ever done can even begin to compare to the crimes of the Shoah. But to help alleviate their feelings of guilt, Europeans delegitimize Israel, ignore modern anti-Semitism, and portray Muslims – who number over one billion and whom no one seeks to eradicate from the earth – as the new persecuted Jews of Europe.
Israel’s measures against the phony peace flotilla also provided Europeans an opportunity to demonstrate their hypocrisy when it comes to Jews flexing some muscle. Many of these same Europeans, after all, have attempted to shift at least some blame to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust for their own suffering, arguing that the Jews allowed themselves to be carted off to extermination camps without resistance. …
Europe is infatuated with passive Jews and memorial events for dead ones. When Jews actually strike back, Europeans cry that they have reacted disproportionately and failed to engage in diplomacy with the terrorist entities that seek their demise.
I have written several posts about this false – and pernicious – perception that Jews went meekly to the slaughter (see this, to take one example) when there were good alternatives they did not take. Not only did the majority of Jews try to flee and very often had their escape blocked, but people minimize the amount of deception the Nazis used to keep people at least somewhat ignorant. For example, why were the victims told they were going to delousing showers – and why did the gas chambers even have fake shower heads? Deception. What were all those fierce guard dogs about, and are people aware that the potential victims who tried to get away were simply killed right then and there in front of the line of people? And if a Jewish person could escape prior to being sent to a camp (or even after), where would that person go when all doors were closed to them? And weren’t so many of the people who were gassed the old and infirm, and mothers with children? And are critics aware that many many Jews “resisted” by killing themselves prior to the roundups? Or about the fact that Jews had been disarmed previously (see this for how it was accomplished)? Or about the actual cases of violent resistance by Jews against all odds?
The entire “they went meekly to the slaughter” narrative is a dangerous fiction and oversimplification, although it’s certainly true of some people. But the persistence of the charge shows both a lack of understanding of the situation the Jews of Europe faced, and a desperate desire to believe that there was actually a way out that wasn’t taken by the Jews.
Anti-Semitism is a protean and flexible instrument, as well as an incredibly virulent and long-lived one. This has been clear for a long time, but it’s now even more clear.
[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]DONATE
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